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Nevada’s ChooChooManDan to take part in Tellabration

Dan Bagley
Dan Bagley

Nevada’s own “ChooChooManDan” will be one of the featured storytellers at this Saturday’s Two Rivers Storytellers Professional Guild’s “Tellabration.”

Tellabration will take place at the Fourth Street Theater, 216 Fourth St. in downtown Des Moines from 7-9 p.m. Admission is $7 per person.

ChooChooManDan is a name that evolved for Dan Bagley over the years while he was working for the Union Pacific Railroad. Bagley, now retired, was a 33-year locomotive engineer.

Bagley joined the Two Rivers Spinners storytelling guild in Des Moines in recent years after meeting them at Living History Farms when they were telling ghost stories. “Shortly after, I joined the National Storytelling Network, of which our guild is a member. Since that time, I have met and heard dozens of tellers from all over the country,” he said. He was also inspired to become part of a storytelling group by Tim Tingle, a professional storyteller he met at the Story Festival in Story City, which Bagley attended a few years ago with his wife, Cathy.

Some of the stories Bagley tells have to do with trains, of course, but he enjoys telling stories on a variety of topics.

“A good story is one where the listener becomes engaged in the teller’s tale,” he said. “The story can be personal, historic, humorous, real or imagined.”

Bagley said storytellers often draw in their listeners to the point where a listener may experience identity in the story. “Emotions are often experienced in the verbal journey of the story,” he adds.

Crafting a story that you plan to tell takes many hours of practice. Bagley said the beginning, middle and end of a story must all work together with a flow that listeners can follow. “This is where the guild (Two Rivers Spinners) comes in, as we practice in front of other tellers who critique our story,” he said.

Bagley will share a story at Tellabration that puts listeners on a train to a distant city and tells of life on the railroad. Bagley will be joined at the Nov. 23 event by other area storytellers: Bettie Jane Bibler of Granger, Mike Zahm of Fort Dodge, Pat Coffie of Waverly, John Prater of Newton and Denise Frank of Polk City. There will also be a native American who plays drums while he tells stories.

“I know all the tellers who will be at Tellabration,” said Bagley, who didn’t participate last year because he was out of town at the time.

Bagley said listening to people tell stories is something he’s enjoyed since he attended his first camp fire as a Boy Scout in his youth.

“I love listening to stories. I travel extensively all around the country to listen to tellers, as well as telling stories myself. Many who I have become friends with over the years are nationally known and finding new stories to entertain us all,” he said.

Bagley’s wife Cathy is a nurse, their son Danny is a river raft guide in Colorado and their daughter Heather teaches in Des Moines. The family came to Nevada in 1989, and is probably ChooChooManDan’s longest-standing support network. “My family loves stories, and I am proud to say I was the first storyteller they ever heard. I appreciate their encouragement in my latest career as a storyteller.”

Two Rivers Story Spinners is a nonprofit education society dedicated to the perpetuation of storytelling worldwide. They meet every fourth Sunday of the month in Classroom A of the Des Moines Playhouse at 4 p.m. For more information, email or call 515-321-9581.